To Everything There Is A Season

A Time For Every Purpose Under Heaven

A blog about raising a young family and keeping Christ at the center of it.

The Cyrs

The Cyrs
Photo Credit: Rachel Dewhurst

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Time to Shop at Home

If you are like me you find it difficult to get to the store, whatever your reasons are. We all have busy schedules making it difficult to find the time to get our shopping done and some of us find it challenging to shop with young children in tow. If I can go shopping alone I'm always so grateful, not because the kids misbehave but because shopping without them is faster! 

In this season with little ones if I take all my kids with me shopping I do not have room left in my cart for the things I need so it is really out of necessity that I leave some home, which means I have to wait until Ben is home from work or go on weekends. Right now with school and extra activities our evenings are pretty booked and we usually have something going on during the weekends making it difficult to fit in a shopping trip...or two or three. So because of this and also because we do not live a convenient distance from stores I have learned how to use online shopping to my advantage and I thought I'd share with you.

First it's all about free shipping! I have to drive such a distance to get to most stores (have I mentioned I live in the woods!) that sometimes even if I have to pay shipping it's still cheaper than the gas I would spend to get to the store BUT I'm always keeping an eye out for free shipping offers. Before I get to that though I want to introduce you to something called Mr.Rebates. If you click on the link it will take you to their website. If you open up a FREE account with them (and you might list me as your referring person!) you can earn rebates from your online shopping purchases. Before you shop at a store online, first go to the Mr.Rebates website and see if the store you are purchasing from offers a rebate. If so, it will come up in the search bar. Clicking on the store name will bring you to the store's site. Now when you make your purchase you will earn a rebate. Because I do this I receive a $20 or so rebate check about every 3 months (the amount depends on how much shopping you do). You also earn a rebate from anyone you refer...when they make purchases. 

So now here are some places that I have found to be of great benefit to me in regards to making online purchases: 

1. AMAZON: About 6 months ago we decided to purchase an Amazon Prime membership. They recently raised the price of the membership so we paid a little less when we subscribed but currently it is $99/year for a membership. You can add up to 4 people to your membership and I know several people who split the cost of the membership with some of their family members making it very cost effective. With a Prime membership you receive free 2-day shipping on most items and from what I have noticed if it's not a prime item it is an "add-on item" allowing you to have it shipped for free with an order of $25 or more. Because all our family lives away from us we have to ship gifts at birthday's and Christmas so we are saving a ton just on the free shipping. Because it is difficult to get to the store though we have found that we are doing the majority of our shopping on Amazon. If you know your prices then this can really work to your benefit. Shortly after having Emma it was so impossible to get to the store and I ran out of deodorant. I looked on Amazon and the price for the one I use was the same as Walmart, plus it was a prime item so I was able to have it shipped directly to my house, it arrived in 2-days and I paid no more than I would have if I'd gone to Walmart. A Walmart trip would no doubt have ended up being a $100 trip...who can get out of there or Target without spending way more than you intended?! 
On top of receiving free shipping you also have access to Prime Instant Video, which is included with your membership allowing you access to tons of free movies & TV shows. We stream it through our Smart TV but you can also stream it through a computer, iPad, etc. We do not subscribe to any kind of cable plan so the only "tv" we have is video streaming or DVD's we own. Previously we used Netflix but everything we watched on Netflix we had access to on Amazon with our membership so we canceled our Netflix subscription (which was about $10/month give or take). Basically, cancelling our Netflix membership pretty much paid for our Amazon Prime membership. Amazon Prime also allows you to rent movies at a very reasonable price where with Netflix the only way we had access to the movies and tv that were not included with the instant streaming membership was to pay the extra fee each month to receive the DVD's in the mail, which we did not do.
Another really great thing about Amazon is the lending library. My kids do a lot of reading, especially Noah. For his birthday this year we got him a Kindle (not the tablet kind) so he could store books there and save space! It is much cheaper to purchase books for his kindle and because we have a Prime membership he is allowed to borrow books for free. Amazon also offers lots of books for free...most of the classics like Tom Sawyer, Wizard of Oz, etc. Noah read for free after downloading it from Amazon onto his Kindle. If you have an iPad, as I do, you can download the Kindle app and buy books as well as download free books when they are offered. The only thing you can't do is borrow books from the lending library. 
There is so much more I could say about Amazon. Many people have told me they purchase their diapers here. While I agree their prices for name-brand diapers is competitive, it's still not a better deal than what we get at BJ's so we don't buy our diapers here. BUT...if by chance we were to run out and a BJ's trip isn't in the near future I would definitely come to Amazon to purchase them because the price is good and they ship for free. Take some time to go to their website if you are not familiar with it and do some research for yourself!

2. WALMART: If you shop at Walmart at all then you can pretty much get anything you buy in the store online...and much, much more! If you spend $50 you receive free shipping. I used to buy my infant formula at BJ's but Emma needed a special formula, which BJ's doesn't offer in the generic brand. We have been buying all our formula through Walmart and it ships free to the house with a $50 purchase...a price not hard to meet when you are buying formula! We also buy all our cereal at Walmart. We buy the huge Malt-O-Meal bags and those are available online. Those are my main items but when I'm ready to restock my supply of them there are usually a few other things I'm in need of, like printer ink for example, that I can add to my order...and it all arrives at my doorstep...for free. I've saved the gas it would have taken me to get there and I definitely save money because I didn't get distracted by all those other things that I "just have to have!". Walmart is evil that way! 

3. GYMBOREE, Old Navy & OTHER RELATED STORES: I don't have to buy the kids a ton of clothes because we do receive hand-me-downs from time to time, mostly for the boys as well as from generous family members who buy them stuff. I don't get a lot of girl clothes so I find I have to buy most of Jena's clothes. As kids get older though it is harder to have clothes to hand down as they wear through their clothes more. My preference really is to shop at second-hand stores for their clothes but we don't live close by to any so it's not convenient at all right now to shop at them. I'm not guaranteed I'll find what I need so it could end up being a waste of time (that I don't have much of) and gas! When I do have to fill in holes in their wardrobe my go-to store is Old Navy because you can purchase from the 3 stores (ON, GAP, Banana Republic) and combine your shipping, which is free if you spend $50 or more. It is actually very hard right now to find a clothing store that doesn't offer free shipping for meeting some spending limit. Old Navy always seems to have a pretty good sale going on and their prices for jeans and dress pants are very competitive and the quality has held up for us. I purchase most of my own clothes from ON and GAP as well because they offer Tall sizes online only. 
One thing I always buy brand new for the kids is an Easter outfit. It's the one time of year I splurge a little on their clothing. This year I got a steal of a deal. Gymboree (a store I do not shop at often because I find their prices too much as I love their clothes) had all the girls dresses on sale plus they were offering "Gymbucks". For every $50 your spent you received $25 Gymbucks to spend at a later date. After getting the 3 girls dresses and the four boys ties and socks (all coordinating of course!) my total was $101 (which by itself is a great deal...that's outfits for 7 kids!) but I got $50 in gymbucks to spend later. This works out really great because Jena is going to need some summer clothes so I will spend the $50 on things she needs. Keep an eye out for these kinds of deals because they can really work to your benefit...and yes, I did get free shipping!

4. Oriental Trading: We do a lot of crafts here. We teach Good News Club, have a Sunday School class we teach as well as VBS some years and kids who like doing crafts. I always have a lot of activities and supplies on hand here at home and for our SS classroom. Oriental trading has an awesome selection of supplies and craft kits along with birthday party supplies all for a great price. They have everything! From time to time I go to their website and check out the clearance section. This is where I purchase the majority of my crafts and activities for our classes as well as to have on hand for school vacations for my own kids to do. The only thing with Oriental trading is the shipping is high and they don't always offer good deals on free shipping. I will not make a purchase from them unless I have a coupon code for free shipping and it has to be on orders of $50 or more. So when I do have a coupon and am placing an order I try to think as far ahead into the future and think about what I will need. I order from here only a couple times a year and try to make the most of my coupon when I do. 

5. LLBean: Around the holiday's and possibly other times throughout the year LLBean offer's $10 cash back on every $50 you spend. I really love LLBean. Not only do they have a lifetime warranty on all their products, the quality is superb. I like to purchase the kids outerwear from here and we also own a few pairs of their children's snowshoes. I have not been disappointed at all with anything we've purchased or with their return policy, which we have had to use from time to time. Their customer service is unbeatable and while a trip to the store is a real adventure for the kids, I take advantage of the free shipping (on all orders, no min) and the cash back promotion. Its also a great place to purchase gifts.  

There you have it! This is my list of stores that have helped me with my shopping and that I feel I benefit a great deal from. While I love being able to get out of the house (usually winding up at the grocery store!) now and then I am very thankful to be able to do the majority of my shopping from the comfort of my own home at basically the same price that I would if I was shopping in the store. Shopping this way has not only saved us traveling time but time spend in the store as well. We save money on fuel and unnecessary spending on those items we never knew we needed until we saw it in the store. I am also spared the effort and at times aggravation of bundling up the kids in this never-ending winter to go out shopping! 

I'm sure there are a lot of other great places for online shopping that I am not aware of. Please feel free to share! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An Honest Look into My Marriage

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, 
and they two shall be one flesh. ~Eph.5:31

Being real and transparent. It is one quality that will draw me to an individual. I have a hard time connecting and relating to people who only let you see and know the good stuff. Not that I need to know all the junk too but for me, a genuine person lets you in on some of their struggles and assures you you're not alone. Hopefully at the same time they can fill you in on how God helped them overcome the struggle or how He is working currently with them in that struggle. I have one friend who comes to mind instantly when I think of the word "transparent". We haven't known each other long and we have always lived in different states (and at one time continents) but she is the most real person I've ever met. Her transparency and willingness to let me see her heart, the good and the bad, is what drew me to her and what has bonded us. Even over the miles I know that I can send an email sharing a struggle and she won't judge but will understand without questions and genuinely pray for me. We can meet for coffee once a year and chat like we've been friends forever. This is the kind of person I try to be. No pretending, no exaggerating and no pride.

Often enough when I write a blog post that hits home for someone or I post something on Facebook, whether it be a status update or a photo I'm sharing I will get a private email from someone sharing their thoughts. I've been blessed that the emails and comments I receive have all been positive or just someone asking a genuine question. Recently I received one after I posted a photo of some chocolate-covered strawberries Ben sent me for Valentine's Day. This person apparently had jokingly teased her husband about how I got these strawberries and he "jokingly" got offended. She continued with, "I said [to him] its so easy to idolize him [Ben] when I only know good things and think of what a wonderful husband he must be, but then I have to remember I don't know all the little annoying things about him that you do!" I was not offended in the least by this comment. It has however, had me thinking ever since and I hope I can communicate my thoughts well.
What I portray about my marriage is absolutely real. We are truly in love and we genuinely enjoy spending time with each other. When I say he is an amazing husband I am not exaggerating. I'm not just spewing words in hopes that people will want what I have. When I choose to praise my husband publicly it is because I am so grateful for everything he does and he would never brag on himself (a quality that I love about him). I believe my husband is the greatest gift God has given me. He is a good man. He loves the Lord and puts Him first always, which means the kids and I are his priority. Does this mean that we never have a problem? No, it doesn't. Will you ever see me airing our differences or my frustrations on social media? No, you won't. Here on the blog though, if I feel as though our experience can help another couple and if I feel led of the Lord to share, then yes I will and so I will try...

Anytime you take two sinful people (which we all are) and put them together in one place to live happily ever after forever there are going to be problems. When I married Ben I had no illusions that I was marrying a perfect man but I did believe I was marrying the perfect man for ME. I still believe he is the perfect man for me. But that does not mean that we have not had some struggles. There is no real and honest marriage that can say they have never had struggles to overcome. I am not talking about circumstantial obstacles (though these obviously can add stress and disrupt a relationship) but rather the obstacles of our sinful nature. These are the ones that are hardest to identify and also the hardest to overcome because they involve our hearts. The Bible says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? -Jer.17:9. While yes we have had to address petty annoyances (which now, after 11 years, are basically non-issues) it has been the issues of the heart that have been the challenge. God has been graciously changing us and molding us to be more like Him and for that I am thankful. But God can't work with those who resist him and what He is trying to do in them. In order for God to change our hearts we have to willingly submit and allow Him to work in us. 

 There was a time when an issue would arise or a hurt would need to be addressed and talking about it only made things worse. Something that starts out small can turn into a very big thing if we are not communicating it in the right way or if pride is in the way. It got to a point where we were arguing often and what I noticed is we were arguing about the same issues over and over. We thought we were resolving it only to have it come up again in a short amount of time. It was never truly resolved. We were both discouraged and it became very clear to me we needed some outside help. Have you ever tried to say to a man, "we need to get some counseling"? Well if your man is anything like mine then you know that the idea was not well received. It took almost a year from the time I suggested it to the time we actually sought out help. When he resisted the idea I could have chosen to constantly bring it up and bug him about it. I could have refused to let it go but I was determined to not become that "continual dripping" the Bible cautions about. Instead I took it to the Lord in prayer. I wasn't only praying that God would show Ben counseling was necessary but I was praying that my heart would be changed because it was possible Ben would never come around to the idea. It took about a year of praying (and gently reminding Ben of this option here and there) before God changed Ben's heart on the matter. We met with friends, a husband & wife, who we respect a great deal and who have had a lot of experience counseling couples.They also have modeled a godly marriage before us. It wasn't going to be just anybody who would be able to tell us where we were wrong and needed to change. Have I mentioned that pesky, not-so-little thing called PRIDE? Long story short is that all it took was one session. Out of that one counseling session we not only resolved the issue that was plaguing our relationship but we learned something about ourselves too. Each of us had an area we needed to work on and change and it took a neutral party to show us. I can't speak for Ben but I learned that my method of communicating was not working with my husband. Times when I thought I was simply, "sharing how something made me feel", was being interpreted by him as criticism. Can I say that I don't still struggle with this? No, I can't. I'm a work in progress. The difference now is that I am aware of what I need to work on I can ask God for help. Counseling is not a bad thing and I believe that if more individuals were willing to let go of pride and not only admit they need help but seek it out then relationships today would be more successful. 

We are just one story. Our issues were not huge when you consider what we could have been dealing with (or could be in the future) and for us one counseling session was enough to help us understand where the other was coming from and to wake us up to the changes we needed to make. For others the issues will be much bigger and require much more help. Every relationship is different and each come with their own set of blessings and struggles. Rather than focusing on someone else's relationship and picking it apart trying to judge if they are being real or not transfer that focus onto your own relationship. Dig deep and examine if there are unresolved issues that are keeping you from experiencing the true joys marriage can bring. Ask God to show you what your pride is not willing to let you see. Most important is get help if you need to and do it before that small matter turns into a matter so big there's no fixing it. Fix your problems before bitterness sets in so deep there is no uprooting it. It's amazing what an outside voice of wisdom can do in helping you see where you have been wrong and need to change. There is no shame in getting help. The real shame is not getting help at all. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Time for Organization: Plan Ahead

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 3:13,14

"If we don't have a target, we can never know if we have hit or missed it. Much time is wasted because we don't know where we're going. If we want to succeed, we must adopt a goal-orientation to life." -Emilie Barnes in Survival for Busy Women

I just started this book and it is a wealth of knowledge, expertise and guidance. Even for an organized person like myself! I have often been accused of "planning too much". In my earlier days I will admit that I left very little room for change in my plan and often got disappointed. Thankfully the Lord has worked graciously with me in this area. He has not shown me that it is not necessary to plan but instead has shown me how important planning is. I just had to learn to be okay when He makes adjustments or totally alters the plan. I'd say seven kids are proof of how God has intervened with "my plan"! 

If you want to be organized then you have to have a plan. If you want to accomplish things in a timely manner then you have to have a plan. Planning and goal setting are not only necessary they are also Biblical. Joseph planned for the famine. King David did not win his many battles without a plan. God did not create the earth without a plan. Without a plan or a goal to reach for there is just chaos and stumbling with a lot of effort exerted to not really accomplish much of anything. 

Lets start with planning. How do you plan for things? Minute by minute or day by day? Week to week or month to month? I fall into the month to month category, which means I have had to learn to be flexible because we all know kids live minute by minute! Being flexible was a very big struggle for me but over time it has become much easier. God has really helped me in this area and I'm thankful for that. I'm not saying that I enjoy last minute changes or unexpected delays but I now handle it with much more grace than I have in the past. Life gets busy for everyone and from what I have seen it does not matter what season of life you are in. From the busy mom to the retired lady, we all have things in our lives that keep us busy. Too busy sometimes to do the things we would really like to do. Have you ever sat back and wondered where the month went with regret of not having done this or that? I know we have. So now Ben and I make a point of writing things into the calendar as soon as we decide we want to do them. For instance, last fall we needed to get things ready for winter. Things like putting away the trampoline, taking out winter hats and jackets, cleaning up the yard, etc. So he found the next available Sat and wrote in, "winterize the house" onto the calendar. This has helped us in not being last minute about everything and alleviates a lot of frustration. Another example is having people over for dinner. How many times do you talk about having someone over but never actually do it? This was happening way too much so we now purposefully look at the calendar and see when we have a free evening or weekend and then decide on inviting someone over for dinner. Pretty much anytime we have an idea like, "I need to have a mom/Jena date and give her some undivided attention", I right away look at the calendar and find a spot where I can fit it in. We have found that we are less stressed and accomplishing much more than we were before we began doing this. And yes, we definitely make a point of keeping free weekends here and there where we have no plans or commitments.

So you can see that planning comes easily to me but goal-setting is something I am still learning. In this stage of my life I find setting long-term goals very challenging because I am having a hard time seeing into next week let alone next year or the next 10 years for that matter. Some people dream big and I admire those people, particularly those who actually achieve those goals. I'm not a dreamer. I've said it before, I'm much too practical for dreaming. My goals or I should say "our" goals may seem too simplistic for the over-achiever or dreamer but for us, for right now, they are just fine. Once you set your goals (and I do think everyone should have goals) start thinking about how you are going to achieve those goals and take the first step toward it. Don't forget to pray, pray and pray some more. When you are in God's word, when you spend time in prayer asking him for wisdom and guidance you will find that he changes your heart so that your plans line up with His plans for you. What I have found to be the challenge is the time table. God's timing always seems to differ from ours but we've learned it's also much better. Goal setting doesn't mean you are leaving God out of your life and taking control but rather working with him to accomplish His will in your life. I am no expert on goal setting, God is still teaching me in this area and I still have much to learn. I am thankful for what he has shown me so far but I am also thankful for the resources he has given me to help me in this. One is the book I linked above. I highly recommend it if you want a more organized and goal-oriented life. The other is a sermon Ben and I listened to by Pastor Mark Driscoll on planning. It is excellent and I highly recommend taking the time to listen to it. He is so practical in his preaching and gives some really good insights about setting goals and what God's word says about it.

Are you a planner and a goal-setter? Is this something that comes easily to you or something you have had to work at becoming? Do you have any resources, tips or suggestions to share with us that have helped you be successful in planning & goal-setting? Please share!

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Time to Go To HIM

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.He will not suffer
 thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. ~Psalm 121:1-3

What a roller coaster few weeks we've had. Between having a tooth get infected and need to be extracted to our entire family coming down with a stomach virus it's been a little rough around here. I'm not sure when I have ever been so tired in my whole life or felt so weak. Just hours before the stomach virus hit the second victim in our house I had said to Ben that I was just so exhausted I felt like I was going to collapse, with tears in my eyes. I meant it too. I knew that the only reason I was still functioning was because God was holding me up. We took some time and prayed together, that God would strengthen us and help us get the rest we so desperately needed. Imagine our surprise when He answered that prayer with two puking kids that night! It may seem like he didn't answer but God doesn't always answer prayers in the way we think he should.

Sometimes, to my shame, I question God. Even though I know he knows better than I do and even though I am convinced and sure his ways are better than mine I still have moments where I question. It's just one question though and it's this: "How could you possibly think I could do this? I am too weak, too proud, too selfish, too impatient! Are you sure you didn't get the wrong person?". I most recently asked this question as Ben and I were cleaning up the aftermath of two kids who just couldn't make it to the toilet for like the 10th time. I backed myself into a corner and just had to let the tears flow. I was weary & worn, I was exhausted and felt so inadequate and I just kept asking him over and over, "Are you sure? Because I don't think I can do this!"

What happens next? When I question and doubt God's plan for my life, when I doubt he meant for me to have seven kids, what happens next? What happens next is I have to go to His word. I need to remind myself of his promises and remember that HE is in control, HE has a plan and HE is always good. HE never makes mistakes...ever! I find great comfort and strength in remembering what is true about God. Then I have to pray and ask for forgiveness and ask him to give me the strength I need to continue on. I don't always have time to stop what I am doing and sit down with my Bible to look up verses so in these times I am thankful for the verses I have memorized and can recite in my head. Do you memorize God's word? I don't do it as much as I should, I admit but I know the value it has. Being able to bring to mind God's word when doubts creep in, when fears arise, when I'm weak is what gets me through the difficult moments.

Don't be afraid to admit when you are feeling weak, when you have doubts or when you have fears. God already knows our struggles so don't be ashamed to bring them to him and ask him for help. Also don't be too proud to share with someone when you are really struggling. I cannot tell you the blessing some of the women God has placed in my life have been. They are such a source of encouragement...particularly those who have already raised a family. They've been where I am and know what I am me they've been there too! As the Bible says, 'there is nothing new under the sun". You are not going through anything someone else before hasn't been through already. If you find yourself relating to similar feelings I have had then for you I leave you some of my go-to verses. Ones that encourage me and give me the strength to press on!

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. ~Is.40:31

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. ~Psalm 18:2

can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. ~Phil. 4:13

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. ~Phil.4:8

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. ~Ps. 28:7

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Time to Be Organized: The Kitchen


"Let all things be done decently and in order" ~I Cor. 14:40

If there is one room in the house that I need organized it's the kitchen. I cannot function in a cluttered, dirty and unorganized kitchen. I spend the majority of my time in the kitchen, which means I also spend a lot of time cleaning the kitchen. You might have noticed last week when I posted my cleaning and laundry schedule that there was not spot for the kitchen. That is because cleaning the kitchen is an on-going, everyday sort of chore. I wipe down counters and the stove after every meal. I also sweep the kitchen once a day at least, more if I have time. I cannot say that I have a hard and fast way to organize cupboards, etc. Every person's kitchen is different, and every person's amount of storage space is different. I will mention some tips that have helped me stay organized in the kitchen but really the only thing I feel matters when it comes to kitchen organization is to make sure everything has it's place and keep things that you use regularly close by. If you have extra storage in a basement or closet use that space to store bigger appliances and dishes you don't use often and save your kitchen storage for the things you use all the time. Also, I go through my kitchen about once a year. Anything that I have not used that whole year is given away.

I cannot stand a sink full of dishes so I am one to stay on top of the dishes. On a typical day I unload and load the dishwasher once a day. On a day where we have company or I'm doing  a lot of cooking then I do more than one load. Here's how I go about staying on top of the dishes. In the morning I unload the dishwasher while the kids are eating breakfast. Then I load the dishwasher throughout the day. After supper I fill up the dishwasher and run it. I hand wash any pots and pans and bigger items that take up a lot of space in the dishwasher to make sure there is room for all the plates and cups, etc. I will say that most days I have help with this since my 3-year-old daughter LOVES to load and unload the dishwasher.

One thing that's important to do when you have little ones is to try and delegate some responsibilities to them when they are old enough to have some. Setting the table is one of these tasks that I was anxious to get the kids doing. When I started my dishes were in a cabinet up on the wall.  They couldn't reach them so I still had to get all the dishes down for them. I decided that as much as I hated the idea of having my dishes in a bottom cabinet, it was the best solution. This way they are all able to reach the dinner dishes and can set the table themselves. It's also a great way to practice counting! I thought I would hate this but I'm so glad I did it and the kids like being helpful in this way. It used to be the older two boys chore to set the table but now they've graduated to other chores and now it is Will's chore to set the table and Jena always helps him. Currently it is Noah's job to sweep the dining area, Owen's job is to wash the table and Gabe's job is to wash the chairs. In the summer they take on more responsibility but during the school year this is about all they have time for (except for weekends when they are responsible for their rooms). One of my favorite chores to give the younger kids, and one that actually is a big help to me is wiping down the cabinets. I give them a bucket of soapy water and some rags or sometimes just disinfectant wipes and they have a blast washing the cabinets and appliances. 

Another tip I have is to keep one drawer in the kitchen that is OK for the little ones to play in. I have one drawer dedicated to just plastic cups and each of my kids has loved going in there and playing when they were very little. Of course understand that implementing a system like this requires a lot of consistent, diligent training. I started training them at age one and all of mine required a lot of reminding that this was the only drawer they were allowed in. It's a lot of work at first but after a few weeks you will see they understand and you will be so thankful you trained them this way. It keeps them out of trouble while I'm busy cooking.

My last suggestion for the kitchen is a snack basket. With children who are constantly asking for food it often feels like all I'm doing is getting people food. I made up a basket of snacks that I don't mind them having so that when they are hungry and want a snack they know they can either go to the fruit drawer in the fridge, grab a yogurt or go to the snack basket in the cabinet. These are all options that are low enough for them to reach and since I am the one who chooses what goes in the snack basket I'm not worried about what they are choosing to's already "mom approved"! And they really like seeing what's in the basket that week. When they receive candy from grandparents, etc. I don't let them eat it all right away. I usually give them one piece then put the rest away. I will mention that I do not allow the kids to eat whenever their little hearts desire. I  keep snacking to a morning snack, afternoon snack and one before bed and they are only allowed a snack if they ate well at the previous meal. 

I know that I would still like my kitchen to be more organized than it is. I do use baskets and bowls and jars to keep things sorted and neat but some days I still feel like I could use more space! One thing I want to start doing as soon as I get a little extra time is to peel, wash and cut my veggies after I've gone to the grocery store so that they are ready to eat or put in lunches or throw into a recipe. I know many people do this and I really see the benefits of doing this. I just haven't gotten to a point where I have found the time to set aside to do this. I would love to hear from you and learn different things that have helped you stay organized in the kitchen!